My sister’s prayers

(after Derek Walcott’s ‘Love After Love’)

by Chisom Okafor

I sometimes walk with Halima to a building where her pelvis is a bow
and her legs draw whirlwind-circles on the roofing.
I point out how badly her track suit needs stitching
she smiles, pretends not to hear

like when she prays
and her words come differently,
whispering to her beads at sunrise
then counting off,
on her fingers, reciting from her ‘Resolutions List’.
Insha Allah….

She would not face Mecca
her cheating lover was there, at Jamarat 

instead, she says, mould your faith into a mackerel,
let it set sail, deep into little waters,
re-make faith from minuscule details
and that’s to say,
send what remains of your heart, like scaffolding to the heavens
shrapnel after shrapnel, slowly-
mating snails don’t hasten.

He thinks you’re a tumor, you send painful
spams down his testicles,
he calls you cancer, painful from over-growth, but
you build your faith from him, from those.
A groan. A sigh. A twitch of eyelids.
A wave of the hand.
Make music with the strings on his tongue.
When they cluck at you, recite a line (or two) from Beethoven
or Johnny Cash, when you have too much black.
You are a sunflower bursting buds.
You have agency, too.
A wellspring, well-hidden from sight.

Chisom Okafor studied Nutrition and Dietetics at University of Nigeria, Nsukka. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in various literary outlets.